The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its partners on Wednesday officially extended the mission in Libya, as the coalition in which the United States plays a major role continues to try to push Muammar Qadhafi out of power.
NATO has tacked on another 90 days to its involvement, which began in late March with efforts to enforce a no-fly zone over the country’s airspace after U.S. forces bombed targets to establish the zone. In recent weeks, NATO officials have expressed confidence about their position, saying that Qadhafi has been forced into hiding and that his supporters are losing ground.
In a statement Wednesday, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the extension of NATO’s presence “sends a clear message to the Qadhafi regime: We are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya.”
“We will sustain our efforts to fulfill the United Nations mandate,” he continued, referring to UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorized members to take “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians.
“Our decision also sends a clear message to the people of Libya: NATO, our partners, the whole international community, stand with you,” Rasmussen added. “We stand united to make sure that you can shape your own future. And that day is getting closer.”
President Barack Obama said in March that U.S. forces would be involved in Libya for “days, not weeks,” but the involvement is reaching into months.
“We will not halt our current operations, which are limited and in support of this critical, NATO-led humanitarian operation,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in mid-May just as the 60-day authority for the president to order troops into Libya without Congressional approval expired.
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